Edd Roush Takes A Nap In The Outfield

On June 8, 1920 Reds outfielder Edd Roush was ejected for taking a nap in center field during a game against the New York Giants. He fell asleep while his manager was arguing with the umpires and was “ejected for holding up play when he does not wake up.”

(Wait, what? You already knew this Edd Roush story? Well, shame on you for not telling it to me. Do I have to wait for the Reds to tell me everything? What else aren’t you telling me?)

I thought taking a snooze in center field in the middle of a game would be the best part of this story. But, this story is so much more than a nap.

(Editor/Husband is napping as I write this. Do you see how my life hews so close to 1920’s baseball? It’s freakish sometimes.)

The Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/9/1920

I’m going to let 1920 Cincinnati Enquirer sportswriter Jack Ryder kick off this tale:

“The Republican convention had nothing on the Reds to-day for excitement and bursts of impassioned oratory as our boys went desperately and protestingly down to defeat in their opening game on the Eastern seaboard.”

It’s a mouthful, but did you catch that? Before Jack Ryder even gets to the game, he tosses in a mention of the Republican convention.

He should. Ohio’s own Warren Harding is about to nab the GOP’s presidential nomination on his way to becoming the nation’s 29th President.

Harding is considered the most corrupt President of all time, or the second-most corrupt, depending on how you see things.

(In 1923, he will die in office from food poisoning, or a heart attack, or both, and rumors still persist that his wife Florence killed him.)

But, no time for politics today. I need more on napping Eddie.

That day at New York’s Polo Grounds, the Reds, trailing 4-2, had tied things up 4-4 in the top of the 8th.

Then, in the bottom of the 8th, with the Giants at bat, George Burns doubled down the third base line.

Not this one.

This one. 

Hey, Jack Ryder, what happened next?

“The Reds instantly, unanimously and vociferiously claimed that the ball was foul, some of the more radical even going so far as to assert that it was foul by at least ten feet.”

While all this instant, unanimous, vocifericous-ing was going on, the Reds left fielder was heaving the ball so wildly that the second baseman had to scamper after it while Burns broke for third.

The ump called him safe.

With no instant replay in 1920, the “entire Red outfit rushed up around the plate and smote the murky atmosphere with words.”

The word-smoting went on for more than 15 minutes. Reds catcher Ivy Wingo threw his glove and chest protector in anger.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/9/1920

The ump threw him out.

The Reds just kept arguing. Except for one …

The Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/9/1920

Roush had pulled off glove, doffed his cap, and was lying on his back in centerfield, sound asleep.

“Finally the Reds had used all the words they knew several times over and the game was about to proceed when Roush was discovered in his recumbent attitude.”

McCormick, the ump, tossed him from the game, which took awhile since,

a) Roush was sleeping and another player had to go wake him up, and

b) Roush did not want to leave the game.

“This caused another delay of 10 minutes for Eddie came in to make inquiries as to McCormick’s health and mental ability.”

Roush then threatened to sock the ump in the jaw and had to be restrained by his manager when he tried to do just that.

George Burns, who had been standing on third through all of this, eventually scored and the Giants won 5-4.

The New York Times, 6/9/1920

(If Editor/Husband wasn’t napping, he would be pleased to know that even with all the kerfuffle’ing, the game lasted just two hours.)

It was Roush’s threat to the ump, not his nap, that led the league to suspend him “indefinitely” the next day.

Indefinitely turned out to be a couple days – Roush was back in the lineup on June 13.

Embed from Getty Images


Does he look sleepy to you?

A lifetime .323 batter, Edd Roush was one of baseball’s great hitters and one of its greatest fielders.

His 18 major league seasons were so rich with batting titles, his speediness — in the outfield and on the bases — and other accomplishments that his in-game nap doesn’t even make it into his bio. There’s too much else to say. (Thirty inside-the-park homeruns, for instance. Thirty.)  He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

I love this photo of Roush, his wife, and daughter, taken around 1919.

(The original post where the photo appeared has disappeared from the Internet, but that link should now take you to the internet archive of the photo. If not, let me know.)

The Cincinnati Reds, the champs of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal Series, tumbled in 1920, finishing third in the National League.

Some people think the Internet is just a cesspool.

They’re wrong.

It taught me about the day Edd Roush took a nap in center field.

The Dayton Herald, 6/16/1920

15 thoughts on “Edd Roush Takes A Nap In The Outfield

  1. Hope Edd got plenty of time to nap during his indefinite suspension. Charming photo to go with another charming story. Thanks.

    • I loved that photo, too. I think it shows the transition from the stoic, two-dimensional pictures of the earliest years years of photography — just sit stiffly and stare — to the warmer, more personal, family photos of today. It seems like it’s a little bit of both. But, I just love it — especially his daughter holding her little baseball bat!

  2. Wonderful retelling of this quirky incident, Bloggess! The photo of Roush with his wife and daughter is captivating, but for me, what makes him special is that he had a twin brother with whom he played pro ball before he signed with his first big league team. Roush was a lifelong Hoosier who grew up in and returned after his retirement from baseball to his childhood hometown of Oakland City, Indiana, where that charming family photo was taken. He lived to be 94! Long enough to enjoy his election to the Hall of Fame in 1962. He was also involved in the trade that broke a lot of New York Giants fans’ hearts when John McGraw sent him and Christy Mathewson to the Reds in 1916; Mathewson was nearing the end of his stellar career while Roush was just beginning his spectacular 18-year run as one of major league baseball’s best hitters and outfielders.

    • This is wonderful Perry, thank you! Roush was one of those gritty, mean old players and I marvel that he didn’t get in on the arguing that day and just laid down to take a nap.

      We wondered about his late induction to the Hall of Fame (in 1962) and I found an interview with him in the Chicago Tribune (from 1987):

      “It took Roush 31 years to be voted into the Hall of Fame, and then it was the Veterans Committee, not the writers, who finally put him there. He says it never mattered to him whether he made it or not.

      “‘What in the hell is it after you get in there? You got all these guys in there who can’t play ball to start with. … It didn’t mean nothing to me. I played ball to win and make money, the hell with the rest of it.’

      “But then you look at his left hand, and there’s that [1919 World Series] ring.”

      You can read the Chicago Tribune story here: To Edd Roush, Baseball Was War

  3. Perhaps you heard the story of Robinson Cano taking a nap at home plate. With the Mets trying to rally from behind and runners on base, he hit a ground ball. Seems as though he fell asleep on his feet, right in the batter’s box. The result: an inning-ending, rally-extinguishing double play. Next game he tried running out a grounder only to hurt himself. He’s been on the IL ever since.

  4. Pingback: 9 Years … 9 Things. | The Baseball Bloggess

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